Monday, February 09, 2009

I know I'll let you down

Blogs are an excellent source of information. You can learn so many different tips and cooking techniques. And yet, I know these next few blog entries are going to come up short.

As you may or may not recall, the purpose of the FF journey is to improve my kitchen skills and techniques. And although this journey has already started, it is only now that we reach the beginning. Ooohhhh that sounds deep doesn't it? We are about to begin the stock and soup chapter. Far more complex than appetizers, but still something that isn't too high up on the difficulty scale. And this is where I cannot recommend highly enough to pick up the book for yourself, because there is no way in these brief entries that I can begin to cover all the information Fannie details in her pages and pages of introduction to the chapter. Pages on when to serve soup, how to turn leftovers into soups, seasoning, storing, and freezing soup. There are pages detailing the stock making process filled with information on cooking, cooling, storing, and clarifying stock. And this is really where my skills are going to improve. Making these stocks and soups is almost like a final exam after reading the chapter. I can't even begin to express my pride when my stocks turned to jelly or seeing the layer of fat rise to the surface to be easily removed. It's like I passed!

But I will do my best to give you a very brief overview as we go along and whet your whistle for what lies in store!

We'll begin with stocks. There are actually quite a few stocks in the book, and each stock has a number of variations, including how to turn a stock into bouillon. I stuck with three that I felt I could handle.

My basic stock notes:
- Cooking: To make a stock you're going to place your meat and bones, along with carrot, celery, and onions in a pot with water. You'll season the mixture with a bay leaf, herbs, and peppercorns. Then you bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, partially covered for 4-5 hours, skimming the surface the first half hour to get rid of the scum. And yes, scum is a technical cooking term. That's it! Works for pretty much any stock and it's so easy you'll never do store bought again! I've already started saving bones and leftovers in the freezer!

- Cooling: After straining the stock, you're going to need to cool it. This can be done in or out of the refrigerator but it must be uncovered. Covered stock will turn sour. You'll know you've done it right if the stock gels when it's cool (this is because of collagen in the bones) . Yay for beef jelly!!!! The fat will separate and rise to the surface and harden. Leave it there until you're ready to use it, it forms a nice little preservative seal.

Beef Stock (From The Fannie Farmer Cookbook)
  • 2 Tbsp cooking oil
  • 4-5 lbs beef shank
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 3 onions, sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs parsley
  • 6 crushed peppercorns
  • salt
  1. Preheat oven to 450. Heat the oil in a large roasting pan, add the pieces of shank and brown them in the oven, stirring, turning, moving them about frequently.
  2. After about 10 minutes, add the carrots, onions, and celery to the roasting pan and let them brown, taking care they do not scorch.
  3. When everything has browned, transfer it all to a stockpot.
  4. Pour off the fat in the roasting pan, add a cup or so of boiling water, and scrape up all the browned bits in the pan, then pour into the stockpot.
  5. Add the thyme, bay leaf, parsley, adn peppercorns and cover with 4 qts of cold water.
  6. Bring the water slowly to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer very gently, partially covered for at least 4 or 5 hours, skimming off any scum that rices to the surface during the first 30 minutes.
  7. Strain and cool uncovered.


  1. I consider myself firmly in the "Joy of Cooking" camp rather than Fannie's...but your posts are seriously making me miss her! Some of the first things I ever cooked back in middle school were out of the Fannie Farmer cookbook, and (NERD ALERT) I used to read that cookbook as if it were a novel. I love that you are doing this!

  2. [whispering] this lazy wife here only uses whatever comes in a can.

  3. Whaaa? I'm supposed to cook the stock uncovered? I always just strain the stock into my dutch oven and put the lid on it. After it cools down a bit, I put it in the fridge over night. So, should I leave the uncovered dutch oven in the fridge over night? Or, is putting it in the fridge bad too?

  4. I love making stock because I feel like a witch with a cauldron. :) I have to say I seriously disagree with FF as to how long to cook the stock. I would keep a beef stock cooking for at least 12, more like 18 hours or so--although I would switch some of the veggies out for fresh ones, etc.

    Your Java comment made me laugh, btw, because I thought we would make a fine team since ALL I know about Java is the food!